By Adam Hess
One of the Blackhawks major weaknesses during their disappointing 2015-16 campaign was the lackluster performance from their very thin blue line. Once a prime example of the kind of depth it takes to be successful in the NHL, the Blackhawks found themselves without Johnny Oduya for the first time since they acquired him in 2012, and suddenly they fell from being arguably the NHL’s best defensive corps to the middle of the pack.
Injuries throughout the season to Duncan Keith and Niklas Hjalmarsson at various points did little to help the Chicago blue line, but the issues ran deeper than that. Brent Seabrook – supposed to be the team’s No. 2 defenseman – had one of the worst overall seasons of his career, despite putting up decent production numbers. One of the major reasons Seabrook struggled so mightily was the amount of time he spent playing with youngster Trevor Van Reimsdyk.
To his credit, Van Reimsdyk is a talented-enough NHL player. He is very serviceable as a bottom pair defender, even on a team that hopes to contend. His instincts translate well to the NHL level, and his passing ability makes him very capable for teams that need a puck mover on the back end. However, he was asked to play much more of a defensive role when paired with Seabrook last season, and he couldn’t quite catch up.
The result was horrific for the Blackhawks. Seabrook and “TVR” turned out to be one of the NHL’s worst defensive pairs when it came to helping their team control the puck while on the ice. TVR was frequently caught out of position and unable to catch up, and Seabrook had clearly lost a step.
Again, none of this is meant as a slight on either player. Seabrook has certainly earned his reputation as one of the game’s best blue liners in recent years, but he clearly has fallen off that level, despite what his contract says. Van Reimsdyk is a good player with the tools to succeed at the NHL level, and because he is still relatively young, there is a good chance that given the right opportunity he could prove to be a valuable piece for a team in the future.
However, that team should not be the Chicago Blackhawks. With the group they have above TVR on the depth chart, as well as the quality of young defensemen they have in the system – Gustav Forsling looks like he could be a star, and 2016 draft pick Chad Krys should be a key contributor in coming years – TVR’s most valuable role in the Hawks organization at this time seems to be as a trade asset.
This year, the Blackhawks’ major need is up front, as they find themselves thin on forwards and relying on several young players to contribute. And while those players certainly have the talent and potential to be special, there is still need for a player with skill and experience to be added to this Blackhawks roster. Van Reimsdyk could be a valuable and attractive piece for a team with blue line needs and forwards to give, and with SportsNet’s Elliotte Friedmann reporting Tuesday that he is available via trade as the Hawks seek to add a forward, it seems TVR’s time as a Blackhawk may be coming to an end soon.
Follow Adam on Twitter: @_adamhess.